A lot of people are wondering if the Cubs are real or not. A lot of doubters point to the fact that a lot of the Cubs victories have come against some bad teams. But on Monday night, the Cubs faced the New York Mets, everyone’s pick to win the east after signing Santana, on ESPN. It was a matchup between Carlos Zambrano and John Maine under the lights at Wrigley. Man, if you saw it on a nice high def TV, Wrigley Field looked just gorgeous. The crowd at Wrigley got to witness a great game, as it was a nail biter all the way until the seventh inning, when the Cubs busted it open to take the first game of the two game series 7-1. It’s games like these that make you feel like this may be a magical season at Wrigley.
As expected, it started out as a pitchers dual. Zambrano was really on tonight, Big Z gave up only five hits, walked two and struck out four over seven innings. The defense also came up big, turning four double plays. The Cubs were able to get to Maine in the bottom of the fourth, when Derek Lee led off the inning with a single. That’s when Aramis Ramirez hit a home run to tie the game. Ramirez has now homered in cosecutive games and it looks like he’s heating up. In the top of the sixth, Z ran into a little trouble. Endy Chavez started out the inning with a double that just missed being a home run. John Maine was up next, and bunted the ball right in front of home plate. Soto tried to throw out the lead runner at third, but Chavez got a good jump and everyone was safe. With runners at first and third, Jose Reyes hit into a double play, scoring Chavez and cutting the Cubs lead in half. With the double play, it looked like the inning was done, but Luiis Castillo hit an infield single and David Wright drew a walk. That brought up Carlos Beltran with the tying run at second. Z go Beltran to fly out to left to end the threat.
Busting it Open
With the Cubs leading 2-1, Carlos Marmol took the mound in the eighth inning. He made quick work of the Mets, getting them out in order. Marmol made veteran pinch hitter Marlon Byrd look goofy on a knee buckling breaking ball. With Kerry Wood warming up in the bullpen, the Cubs were looking to add some insurance runs. The inning started out well, with Derek Lee reaching on an error by the shortstop Jose Reyes. Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman hit Aramis, putting runners at first and second. Then the place went nuts, chanting Fukudome’s name, and he didn’t disappoint. Fukudome fought off pitch after pitch before slapping a single to left field to load the bases with no outs. But then it started to happen. Mark DeRosa had a horrible at bat, striking out for the first out. Than Geovany Soto popped out for the second out. It looked like the typical Cubs, loading up the bases and then letting the pitcher off the hook, swinging momentum back to the opposing team. Not only that, but Ronnie Cedeno, who was a late game addition after Theriot couldn’t play with back spasms, was up to bat. Cedeno was 0-3 at that point, reaching base on an error by David Wright. Down quickly in the count, it looked like the Cubs would spoil the opportunity, but then Cedeno hit a ball up the middle to drive in Lee and Ramirez and give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. After that, Heilman was pulled and Jorge Sosa came into the game. Lou brought in Pie to pinch hit for Marmol, and Pie jacked one to right, giving the Cubs a 7-1 lead. Pie’s reaction was priceless. Wood put ’em away 1-2-3 and the Cubs put on a dazzling display of ptching, defense, and timely hitting.
Is this team for real? I don’t know. I keep staring at stats and can’t believe how well the Cubs are doing offensively, especially when it comes to seeing pitches and taking walks. The soft underbelly of most teams is middle relieff. Have the pitcher throw a high number of pitches, get him out of the game by the fifth or sixth inning, and go to town on the stiffs that most teams have in their bullpen. I just though that Monday nights win against the Mets had one of those magical feelings at Wrigley, the kind that really get Cubs fans excited and make the doubters take notice. After struggling so bad in April last season, this is the kind of start Lou was looking for. The Cubs play game two of the series at 1:20 tomorrow, with Ted Lilly taking on Nelson Figueroa. Lilly wants to contribute in the worst possible way, and how nice would it be to see Ted get his first W tommorrow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that Ted can finally get it going.
Well, the streak was bound to end sooner or later. The Cubs had five wins in a row going into tonight’s game against the Phillies, and they got the fireworks started early, but it wasn’t enough to get it done. Carlos Zambrano struggled in the first game of the series against the Phillies and the defense didn’t help much either. As Pat Hughes put it tonight, the Cubs either hit all or nothing against Phillies starter and big A-hole Brett Myers. The Cubs only had five hits off of Myers, but three of them were solo home runs by Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano. The only other player to have a hit for the Cubs was Mark DeRosa.
After getting two outs in the first inning, Myers gave up back to back jacks to Lee and Ramirez in the first inning to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. The good news for Cubs fans is that Lee has has now equaled his home run totals for both April and May 2007 (four) — and it’s only his 10th game of the season. But as we’ve seen so many times before, the bats went cold. Myers threw breaking ball after breaking ball, After the first, the Cubs only had one hit, an infield single by DeRosa, until the sixth inning. It was the same old Cubs, hacking away instead of waiting for a good pitch to hit.
Meanwhile, Zambrano was able to keep the Phillies hitters down for a few innings, but he wasn’t locating his fastball. He started having his Carlos meltdown in the fourth inning. He started out falling behind Chase Utley, who eventually singled, He then got Ryan Howard to ground to Lee, who threw to second, but Utley slid hard and Theriot couldn’t put anything on the throw to Zambrano and Howard was safe. The next batter, Pat Burrell, hit a ball that still hasn’t landed, tying the game up at 2-2. In the fifth inning, Z got two quick outs, then gave up a walk to the lead off hitter, Shane Victorino. The next batter, Greg Dobbs, doubled to left-center. Kosuke Fukudome, playing center, made a back-handed catch on the run, but Soriano bumped him and knocked the ball out of his glove, allowing Victorino to score. Lou came out to argue that Fukudome had taken a few steps, and that it should have been called an out.
“That’s what the umpire said — it wasn’t a full transfer,” Piniella said . “He bumped into Soriano, and the ball dropped out of his glove.”
“I did catch the ball,” Fukudome said, “but as I ran past Soriano, the tip of the glove hit — maybe Soriano’s leg, maybe his torso — and the ball popped out of my glove. It was nothing but my fault that I didn’t hold on to it. The ball did come into my glove. I thought I made the catch.”
The funniest(or saddest) part was Soriano’s response.
“I don’t know where it hit me,” Soriano said. “I was more scared because I saw him running to catch the ball, and I wanted to tell him to get out of the way. He didn’t see me.”
Technically, the play should have been made by Soriano, who misplayed the ball. Fukudome made an amazing play to get to the ball. Had Soriano moved out of the way, the Cubs may have gotten out of the inning without any further damage.
Soriano did make it up to the team, leading off the sixth with a solo home run, tying the game at three. Unfortunately, Z couldn’t put them away. Z fell behind Ryan Howard 2-0, who then hit double to left center. Burrell then hit a double that got past Daryl Ward scoring Howard with the go-ahead run. This caused Z to start jumping around like a moron. One of these days, one of his teammates is really going to kick the crap out of him for that (Barrett tried that once!)
“What can I say?” Ward said. “I’m doing the best I can. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in right field. It’s tough getting good jumps after not being out there that long. There’s not really any excuses. I gave it my best effort. It was over my head. If it was side to side, I think I had a good chance of catching it. Once I got there, it was over my head, and I tried to get it in as quick as possible.”
You really can’t blame Ward. After Soriano tied the game at three, I though that Ward should have been taken out of the game to upgrade defensively. I understand Lou wanting to get Ward some at bats, but you have a tie game and you need to play good defense. That was Lou’s fault for leaving him in. Carlos Ruiz hit a single,scoring Burrell and that put the game out of reach. Brad Lidge saved it for the Phillies.
The Cubs really needed Z to pitch a great game, and he didn’t. Now the Cubs have to face lefty Cole Hamels on Satuday and have struggling starter Ted Lilly going. Hamels was 2-0 last year with a 1.80 ERA and is 2-1 in his career against the Cubs. Let’s try to get another streak started. We only have to win one more game to make this a winning road trip.